September 27, 2011 (Day 7)
Itinerary: CycleGreece Day 4, bike from Stemnitsa to Olympia about 55 miles, stopping at water power museum, Langadia, and lunch in Dafni
Trip odometer: 54.2 miles
Moving time: 4hrs 30 min
Max speed: 40mph
Max elevation: 3526 feet
Min elevation: 137 feet
Weather: cool morning at 60 degrees, hot in Olympia at 90+ degrees, very windy day
Brrr, it is a cool morning in the mountains today. Our ride was shady for the first hour or so and we stayed chilly as we rode a combination of uphill and downhill to the Water Power Museum. I was excited about the museum where we’d see various water-powered devices, however, as we got down there we found that it was closed on Tuesday. =( Besides Mark and I there is one other engineer on our tour and she was disappointed as well.
But, we got permission to break in to the museum, so we climbed the fence and hopped in. It looked like a cool museum, but nothing was running and most of the things to see were inside several buildings on site. But we walked around and read the placards that were available for us to read. In any case we can saw now that we’ve broken into a museum.
Today’s ride was long, but the terrain started as mostly flat with a few small climbs. Up in the mountains we could really start to feel the wind today and the headwinds while biking uphill weren’t very fun. Actually, the headwinds while going downhill meant some pedaling was involved. We biked to the small mountain town of Langadia and stopped for snacks and shopping. This was another adorable town that reminded me of Stemnitsa. We poked around in the little shops admiring the handmade wooden items like little stools for the kids with faces of dogs and cats on them and several handmade canes. A shop selling oodles of homemade foods and good looked like a good place to pick up several treats to munch on so we did.
We found a WC or bathroom in the town that had no English indication of mens and women’s which amused us since we couldn’t read the Greek. After this town we had a thrilling downhill ride in store for us. There was practically no traffic in the mountains and the pavement was smooth and wonderful, so Mark and I flew down the mountain earning our nicknames as the “downhill demons.” Even if we have trouble climbing the hills, we sure don’t have trouble coming back down. =)
The scenery along the Lousios Gorge we were heading down was absolutely breathtaking, but I had no intention of putting on the brakes in order to stop for a photo. I also had no intention of pulling out my camera while biking at 40mph. =) All of our days so far have been sunny, wonderful, days and today was no different.
We re-grouped at the bottom to overlook a beautiful old stone bridge and take some photos before biking a nice flat route to the town of Dafni for lunch. Dafni was a tiny town of about 5 buildings, but there was a cafe serving lunch for us. We get lots of looks as we cycle through Greece and lots of waves.
After lunch the ride was mostly flat with two hills to climb. Our group split up according to climbing ability. The hills were tough to climb, but with only about 3km of climbing for each hill it was certainly do-able. We just stopped a lot for photos and breathing breaks. Pete in the support van following us was wonderful pausing to give us water or snacks or just encourage us on. It sure is nice biking with a support van carrying all the water, snacks, and luggage.
Finally, though, we made it to Olympia and after a couple days of tiny towns and cycling with few cars in the mountains, the mass of people and tour buses we encountered came as a huge shock. It felt as if the whole world was here to see Ancient Olympia. I think the cruise ships came in or something too. We will tour the site tomorrow, but tonight we had to make it to the Hotel Pelops to shower and get ready for a Greek cooking class at the hotel!
Susanna, our host and chef for the night was an amazing person with a real passion for Greek cooking and teaching. She’s been in Greece for 30-35 years, but still has a very English accent. She taught us that the most important part of Greek cooking is the olive oil. The olive oil has to be of extremely good quality and there is no such thing as too much oil. I disagree, but I do admit that the olive oil was of great quality. Let’s see, as a group we made our whole dinner from appetizers to entree to dessert. We started by making the stuffed tomatoes and pepper appetizer which was absolutely delish for dinner. We also made little cheese pies using feta cheese and filo paper. I got very good at wrapping the triangular cheese pies which were small enough to fit in your hand. We had a beef dish with pasta. We made a delicious tzadiki that we couldn’t get enough of. For dessert we made some mini baklavas that were the best baklavas I’ve ever tasted! Dinner was amazing and while we ate and socialized we learned all about how olives are grown, picked, and made into olives and olive oil. It’s an extremely long, time-consuming process over several months after picking until you have edible olives. Susanna was also a great story teller as she told of picking olives back when she arrived in Greece and families trading songs in the orchards as they picked.
By the time it was finally time for bed, I couldn’t have kept my eyes open a moment longer and slept like the dead after a long day of cycling and then cooking. I’m happy for the experience though.
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